A book on ethics and philosophy of values

(Note: this is a non-professional translation of the original text in French. Help improve this translation: please report any mistake!)


3) The evil


A third extreme axiological position may be considered: evil, that is to say the doctrine which holds that cruelty, violence and suffering have a great value. It is radically different from eclecticism, for the value of the whole is not affirmed. Good, morality, happiness of others, pity, are for the villain nothing but despicable things.

This position is hard to imagine, since it is a fact that a vast number of books on morality never give a voice to authors who affirm the value of evil, like Sade for instance. But it is the first thing to do, for we cannot answer anything when someone attacks morality, unless we have listened carefully what he says. Further, it is to be noted that some books on the specific problem of evil refer to no immoralists at all.

It is a particular kind of evil which interests us here. It is neither the evil which we commit unconsciously, unintentionally, or because we are compelled to do so. Nor the evil due to a difficult integration in the society, in a view shared by a number of sociologists. Nor again evil due to the physiologically deficient structure of the brain, which impairs judgment.
In a word, I wish to consider the evil without excuse, viz. evil which lies on the axiological assertion – conscious, rational and voluntary- : “evil has a great value” or “evil has more value than good”. I call “radical evil” such a position.

The very possibility that someone could hold such a view is rarely admitted, since the sociological, biological or psychological explanations are prevalent today. According to these, the love of evil is a simple symptom, a social or psychological disease, and we have to find out its cause, in order to heal the patient, or the victim (of an alienating society).


For the axiologist, on the opposite, the love of evil is a quite consistent doctrine, which must be considered, because the value of morality is not founded: there is for the moment no serious condemnation of the immorality, proving its absence of value.
To say that evil is a symptom or an illness is to imagine that no man can rationally and knowingly choose evil, or that evil cannot be loved for itself. We are asked to believe that it is only because a man is compelled -by his society, childhood, or the abnormal structure of his brain- that he acts badly.

The axiologist maintains on the contrary that, no value being founded, the love of good is not for the moment more rational than the love of evil; that if it is true that we can give a psychological or sociological explanation of a great number of bad deeds, there exists a certain kind of evil, which is to be taken seriously, and consists in the following axiological position: evil is the supreme value.

We must consider it seriously, to remain neutral. Indeed, we must, at a given time of our reflection, give a chance to evil, or else the immoralist will rightly tell us that our analysis is biased, and thereby doomed to failure. So even if it offends our deepest feelings, and makes us shudder at the thought of what is hidden behind this proposition, we must admit that maybe evil has a value…

Here again, it is difficult to find an author who holds such a view, as it was the case for eclecticism. One may mention Nietzsche and Sade; however, as we shall see, they do not really correspond to what I call love of evil.